TODAY: THE ARTIST, ALBUM & SONG OF THE YEAR!
Before it came out, most people would’ve guessed this would’ve been my Album of the Year, myself included. I was pumped for Yelawolf’s major label debut even before the first single was released, and when it finally was, Hard White (Up In The Club) met and exceeded those high hopes. And then, finally: the album! I started listening and breathed a sigh of relief when Yela fucking killed it on the intro track, and the second track began promisingly enough too. I have to say, I love the half that’s just Yela rapping. Partway through track 2, I met the other half of the album: sub-par guests. Overly saccharine chick-sung choruses. Rappers that can’t keep up. Weak songs built around the few rappers that can. This album is fucking Two-Face. Flip a coin, Radioactive. Pick a side. Half an album can’t qualify for Album of the Year, even if it’s by my current favourite rapper.
ARTIST / ALBUM / SONG OF THE YEAR
Believe the hype: Black Hippy are the second coming of N.W.A. that The Game was supposed to be, putting Cali back on the Hip Hop map with the THUNDER! The Hoover Crip, ScHoolBoy Q. The self-described Black Lip Bastard, Ab-Soul. The back-flipping Blood Jay Rock. And, standing front and center, Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar, crowned the Prince of the West Coast by no less than Dre and Snoop.
I’d like to revise that coronation and declare Kendrick the new King. He has yet to lose a step, Crip-walking the tightrope between rapper and gangster, wearin’ a backpack. His inkpen paves a path through the ghetto that he hopscotches, poignant to poisonous from one bar to the next. He’s even-keeled on the delivery, letting his words be the aggressors. Keep it real?! He’s REAL real! No pretense, no bullshit. No flashy wardrobe – he’d rather rock a black hoodie. No fake persona – he doesn’t even have a “rap name,” using his real one instead. Naw, what he’s got is stories. Scathing social commentary. And SONGS! Songs with slithering, serpentine verses that come full circle and eat their own tail. Hooks that really HOOK, and lines that reel ‘em in every time.
And his album? Fuck, man, Section.80 is the shee-eye-it! No other record got more play by me this last year. The 80 in the title refers to the 1980s that he was a product of and the same period provides much of the subject matter (crack), mood (Cold War paranoia) and inspiration (hometown heroes N.W.A.). From opener Fuck Your Ethnicity to the last track, HiiiPoWeR, the album maintains a lush, cohesive feel and demands a listen straight through, impressive in this iTunes-made era of no attention span, a la carte, Choose Your Own Adventure-style of listening. Not to say that there aren’t high points though. In trying to choose my favourite track off the album, well, I straight up failed. I narrowed it to three. Maybe you can help me choose…
Do I go with the anthem? The RZA-produced Ronald Reagan Era, an ode to the various Bloods, Crips and other nogoodniks that populate his neighbourhood, BANGS, in all senses of the word. Gimme a “Whoopty-whoop, whoopty-whoop-whoop” if that’s your vote.
Or maybe I should go with my first love off this album? The song that flexes all of Kendricks MCing muscles, Rigamortis? The one that has him, over a fucking killer horn loop, slowly building from his natural, laid back delivery to the lesson-in-breath-control, words-pressed-against-each-other, hyper speed frenzy he reaches by song’s end. That’s how you rap, right there, dammit!
But, naw, Hol’ Up! I think I gotta go with A.D.H.D. The song’s narrative takes us through a party, masquerading as a boy-meets-girl tale and an ode to getting fucked up on drugs and alcohol, sneaking in theories on 80s kids and the connection to short attention spans, apathy, over-medicatication and tolerance to intoxicants, AND THEN, finally, reveals itself the theme song for Generation Y. (Whew!) Do the knowledge: A.D.H.D. is crazy! It’s probably his most important song and definitely his masterpiece. Plus: it says “Fuck that!” a lot. Fuckin’ swear words, yeah!!
“Now, everybody put three fingers in the air.” Song of the Year. Album of the Year. Artist of the Year. He’s a motherfuckin’ triple threat! He’s the motherfuckin’ truth! The voice of THIS generation. Kendrick is his name, and the boy’s comin’ Straight Outta Compton. (Damn, it feels good to be able to say that again – FOR REAL – for the first time since 1989.)
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck the police, I’M OUT!